Gaza: Egyptian and Palestinian officials said that the head of the Egyptian intelligence service met with Hamas leaders in Gaza on Monday to try to strengthen the ceasefire between Palestinian militant groups and Israel and discuss plans for reconstruction after recent hostilities.
The visit was the first by an Egyptian intelligence chief to the enclave since the early 2000s.
“The discussion is focused on ways to cement the calm and Gaza reconstruction plans following the recent Israeli aggression,” said a Hamas official, who asked not to be named.
Hamas officials, led by Gaza chief Yehya Al-Sinwar, would urge Cairo to pressure Israel to stop “its assaults against our people in Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah,” he said.
Eleven days of fighting between Israel and Hamas erupted on May 10 amid Palestinian anger at Israeli police raids around the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and plans to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city to make way for Jewish settlers.
Gaza medical staff said that 253 Palestinians were killed in the fighting. Palestinian rockets and missiles killed 13 people in Israel.
A large poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian flag decorated the street across the enclave to greet the intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. When the lanes of Gaza passed by, hundreds of people lined up at the entrance of Gaza, waving the Egyptian flag.
Carmel’s visit was seen as Cairo’s efforts to regain a more important role in the mediation between Israel and Hamas and to revive the deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported on Sunday that Sisi instructed Egyptian officials to continue their efforts and hold meetings to resolve the issue of prisoners and missing persons between Israel and Hamas.
After meeting with Carmel in Gaza, Sinwar said that there was “a real opportunity to make progress” in resolving the prisoner issue, but he added that Hamas requested that these negotiations be separated from ceasefire negotiations.
Kamel was expected to announce plans by Cairo to fund a housing project in the territory, Hamas sources said. Egypt has said it would allocate $500 million to fund the rebuilding of devastated areas in Gaza.
Gaza s housing ministry said 1,500 housing units were completely destroyed during the fighting, another 1,500 housing units had been damaged beyond repair, and 17,000 others suffered partial damage. A ministry official put the cost of rebuilding at $150 million.
On Sunday, Kamel met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu said his meeting dealt with regional security issues and ways to prevent Hamas from siphoning off civilian aid to strengthen its capabilities.
MENA said that Carmel also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Sunday and handed him Sisi’s message confirming Cairo’s support for the Palestinians and Abbas.